Realty Check: The Truth About Taxing The Rich

By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS, (WCCO) — There’s no doubt Minnesota’s on the top 10 list for state income taxes.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s tax hike on Minnesota’s highest income earners may put Minnesota at number two, just behind Hawaii.

Dayton’s opponents are using numbers that are technically true, but not completely accurate.

“The top 5 percent already pay 41 percent of the income taxes in the state of Minnesota,” said Sen. Julianne Ortmann (R-Chanhassen) during a Senate tax debate Thursday.

That’s TRUE.

The 122,547 households in Minnesota earning $175,000 or more pay 41 percent of the income taxes in the state, according to the 2007 Tax Incidence Study from the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

To put it in a larger context: Those households also earn 33 percent of all the income.

And if you take the top 10 percent of households — $124,000 or more — they pay 38 percent of income taxes, and make 43 percent of all the income.

But Republicans say those aren’t the only ones who get stuck with higher income taxes.

“The governor intends to tax every Minnesota taxpayer at 10.95 percent,” Ortman told the Senate. “The second highest rate in the nation.”

That’s FALSE.

Republicans say Dayton’s tax hike doesn’t account for inflation, which is true.

Republicans also say Dayton’s tax hike — which does not factor in inflation — will push everyone into the highest tax bracket.

A non-partisan Senate study on which it’s based doesn’t show that or anything like it.

That’s Reality Check.

More from Pat Kessler
  • Check Your Math

    How can the top 5 percent of tax payers be paying 41 percent of all taxes
    And the top 10 percent only be paying 38 percent of all taxes.
    You math does not add up.
    If the top 5% pay 41% then it follows that the top 10% would be paying more than 41% not less as your math indicates.
    And this is a reality check you need to redo your math.

    • jimmy

      Check Your Math
      Check your own math. The article says nothing about ALL taxes it says income tax. The income tax which accounts for only 36% of all revenue in Minnesota.So if you look at it you will find the people that make 22.5% of all income only pay 8.1% of total revenue in Minnesota. The rest of the revenue being paid mostly by the lower 95%.

    • nate

      If you notice the first set of numbers – 5% pays 41% – are from a quote from Sen. Julianne Ortmann. Although after re-reading it it does seem to follow your logic…more than likely the numbers regarding the 10% were merely switched…I hope.

      • Jake


        Before jumping all over the fact that it’s Senator Ortmann’s numbers (and suspect, apparently), note that the next sentence is “That’s TRUE.” So, despite the fact that they are, in fact, the numbers she used, those numbers were adopted by the author.

    • Ralph

      The first statistics were from 2007, a very long time ago. The second set of numbers were undated

    • David J. Conklin

      >You math does not add up.

      1) Your English needs work.
      2) It means that the second tier is paying a lot less in taxes then they make in income.

    • Reality

      The top 5% pay 41% of the total
      The top 5.1%-10% pay 38%

      That means that combined the top 10% of earners pay 79%.

      It doesn’t matter what % of total income they make. THEY earned the money. These top 10% also use almost no government services. So the pay much more and use much less. That isn’t fair.

      As usual the reality check story is poorly done. PK always uses misleading and incomplete stats, just so he as something to write about.

  • Chris K

    How about a flat tax for everybody on income & property? How about ending refundable tax credits? Why do you get money back if you didnt pay in to begin with?

    • the crux of the biscuit

      Every one ‘pays in’. It’s the refund that determines how much the state keeps. Try living on a wage that gets all state taxes refunded if you are jealous. How about taxing those with all the damned money instead. You ‘flat tax’ people want everyone to ‘be the same’ at tax time but are all for income disparity never before known in the history of the state, or country for that matter, on the earnings side.

      • Mark from

        Hey Cruxie, looks like your not having a good day

      • Chris K

        Socialism at its finest! Refundable tax credits are a perfect example. Ok, so you paid $400 to the state but you qualify for a credit of $500 and net $100. That is $100 out of the pot that you didn’t pay. This is America, if you want the government to take care of you move to Europe.

      • Grammar Cop

        Hey Mark from MNTaxWaste…

        YOU’RE not having a good day as YOUR English (and logic) seems a bit faulty.

      • Reality

        A flat tax does not mean everyone pays the same. If the tax rate is 10% and you make 20,000 then you pay $2,000. If I make 100,000, then I pay $10,000. How is that the same. I pay 500% more tax than you. Again, how is that the same?

  • Jeanette

    I’m thinking that the news story means that the 15% of top state earners pay 79% of the state’s taxes and earn 84% of the state’s income. That would leave 16% of the state’s income being earned by 85% of the rest of us who would pay 21% of the rest of the income taxes. I hope Pat K. clarifies this issue.

  • James

    Where does the story do a reality check on the bottom XX% that pay no taxes, earn no income, and live off the dole? Where does the story do a reality check on the goods and services consumed by the top 5% of the income earners. They certainly don’t consume 41% of the government. It’s simply weath redistribution no matter what Pat Kessler Spin you want to slap on it. It’s never enough.

    Let’s do a reality check on the Tax Loopholes as a percentage of income. For the bottom XX% of income earners in the state of Minnesota making $20,000/year, they are allowed to claim the Basic Federal standard deduction of $8,500 for head of household filing status. That means they pay taxes on only 57.5% of their income, able to legally exempt 42.5% of their income from state and federal taxes????!??

    Compare that to someone making $100,000. That same federal standard deduction subsidy is good for exempting only 8.5% of that person’s income from state and federal taxes. Obviously a person making 100k will itemize their taxes and show that they are legally allowed a greater exemption than $8500, but that sheds no light on the illigitimacy of the $8500 deduction for anyone else.

    Here’s my basic point. Get rid of the standard deductions, force everyone to itemize their taxes legitimately, just like the higher income earners do. The basic standard deductions are the BIGGEST subsidies I can think of (and i’m no expert) for the poor. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people paying little to NO taxes each year could pay their fair share too? I think so.

    Unless your “reality check” is checking reality, don’t come to me with a “news” story and call it legitimate.

    Now THATS a Reality Check Mr. Kessler.

    • Mike

      This begs an explanation. If there are only 122,547 people making over $175K a year, how many are fraudulantly through tax code reducing their real incomes down to avoid paying taxes? When I look around, I see many valuable buildings, businesses, vacation homes, cars, lifestyles, and they all reek money. The titles on these buildings and businesses are not owned exclusively by the 122k people, their are too many of them. Hiding income through loop holes and creative accountants or pocketing cash is the problem in this state, not somebody making $17,000 a year and only paying taxes on 57% of their income. Their also is a problem with legitamacy when you allow and overlook some of these top wage earners who exploit illegal aliens for their wealth.

      • Mark from

        Mike, looks like you don’t want to work hard, but want the rewards. Step up!

      • MarkyMark

        Wealth is not income. Someone could be a non worker and earn 175K a year from their investments. So they can afford a expensive care, because they have 3 million dollar portfolio. Illegal aliens? What does that have to do with it?

    • Mark from


      • Mike

        Mark, I am 56 years old and have worked since I was 15. I have mine…..; )

      • Mark from

        @Mike So what, you have been working sense you were 15. I am 51 and retired, whats your point?

    • the crux of the biscuit

      Try living the ‘lavish life-style’ of the mega $20,000 earners sometime. Feel your taxes are too high? Move to Texas or North Dakota or somewhere with lower taxes.

      Mark from – Go F yourself cry baby. I can see you know sitting at your KB stamping your feet and pounding the air with your fists, “I pay too much, I pay too much, waaaa,waaaaaaa,waaaaaaa’. Grow up or move someplace where you can become the victim of your own tax policies. This is Minnesota. We are compassionate, hard working people, and willing to help our friends and neighbors. We want good roads, schools, health care and a clean environment. No one is holding a gun to your head making you stay a hole.

      • Mark from

        @the crux of the brain Where do I say I pay to much in taxes? Did I miss something I wrote? Oh, I get it, your doing a spin. As to your Minnesota compassionate BS, we are a welfare State, and yes I help my neighbors, friends, Church, so your spin does nothing to me, but I can see it does upset you. Just keep pushing it down, LOL

    • the crux of the biscuit

      So poor people getting the same basic excemption as rich people irratates you eh? And poor people getting to keep all $20,000 they made, on the state side, just kills you huh? You can always quit working and join that ‘elite’ group making $20,000 or less you know. Wuusssssyyyyyyyyyyy

      • Mark from

        @cuxie I would like to see a flat fee across the board 30% no deductions no matter how much you make. The problem with that is the ACLU would jump on that, along with other attorneys for the wealthy

  • Really?

    Equity is key here – sure, the top 5% is paying 41% but it’s not like that buys them anything special, not like there are special roads or police service or better service level agreements – what about some sort of break like you will not owe additional taxes at the end of the year? First, making over $175K in the twin cities isn’t all that much, sure much better than most but it’s not like you are on easy street. Second, we are already getting taxed almost 40% when everything is said and done, then the IRS usually hit us for another $7K or so…while those who didn’t pay anything at all will get back thousands of dollars…no offense, but that’s just not right – and yes, I vote dem (for social reasons, not personal financial reasons clearly). I believe in a greater good approach but we’ve reached a breaking point for sure.

    • Mike

      Really Are you kidding? The airline industry is heavily subsidized by taxes and I can assure you their are more people making less than $20k who will never get on a plane in their lives compared to the millions of miles by individuals in the 5% bracket! Also the courts, infrastructure, military, police and the tax code all greatly benefit the wealthy in greater proportion. Over 25% of business pay no taxes including some of the most profitable in the history of the world! Capitalists who sit on their duffs collecting dividends while drinking umbrella drinks at the country club pay a total of 15% taxes on their “hard” earnings. Cry yourself a river for the wealthy and remember this, that $175k or better you make a year that “isn’t that much”, is 4 times the median household income on average for a family of four in the USA!

  • Mark from

    Pat you need to be FIRED for this story. Your spins on the truth are getting as bad as the Republicans and Democrat. You sold your character to the dollar Why don’t you report on which percentage does not pay taxes, but gets the most. Tell you what I will do it for you

  • shwiehl

    Mark, go ahead and disagree with the story, but can people on the right please stop calling for everyone to be fired that they happen to disagree with? If you want to truly be heard, I suggest you refrain from insulting people and heighten the level of your dialogue.

  • Mark from


  • Mark from

    @ SHWIEHL how are my words insulting? Did I hurt your feelings? Please tell me where in the Constitution its says you have a right to be not insulted

  • the crux of the biscuit

    Mark is a troll, ignore his posts and it will go away…..

  • Mark from

    Hey cruxie,, Did I struck a nerve?

  • Tom

    Does it really matter who pays what? Majority of taxpayers across the nation dont have a say in how their tax money is spent anyways…let alone how much if it will be deducted from a paycheck.

    Mn is in the top 10 in the nation for years…all the complaining hasnt changed that. Whats going to happen when we’re #2 behind Hawai’i? Complain louder? Shake both fists rather than just one?

    Ya, that’ll learn ’em.

    Just stretch the chute out a bit more in the tailpipe folks, eventually will learn to take the size difference like the tax paying folks before us and before them….etc, etc.

    • Mark from

      @Tom well said, and what do we get for it. I drove from St Paul to Minnetonka via 94, 494, and to highway 7. It was like driving in a war zone, trying to doge the holes

  • Chris K

    I thought America was the land of the free & stood for equality & justice for all. Taxes suck but plowed roads are nice and basic services make life easier. Is government obese in this country, yes it needs gastric bypass! We waste billions on marijuana prohibition, faith based programs, defense and countless other special interests it makes me sick. I am only 30 but I used to consider myself a Dem but now I see I am truly a Libertarian. I want as little government as possible. We are capable of making our own decisions & taking responsibility for them. I still will vote for Dems over Repubs due to social issues but I still have to hold my nose while doing it. What is wrong with a flat tax? Why not cut the crap & have everyone pay the same percentage of their income? I benefit somewhat from itemizing but still pay more than I feel I receive.

  • Jobu

    Anyone else out there feel a whole lot “dumber” after reading all of mark from panty’s horrible grammar and stupid comments??

    • MARK from

      I know I do

  • Chris K

    So what again is so evil about having everyone pay the same percentage of their income in taxes as everyone else? We can all choose to continue our education & learn skills that employers value. Unless you are disabled I do not feel concerned for your lack of resources. It is called effort & motivation.

  • Jeanette

    Maybe the crux of the problem is that 85 – 90% of Minnesotans earn 21% of the available state’s income. Business needs a demand for their goods. How many pairs of shoes and cars can the top earners wear or drive at a time. It would be in the best interest of the top earners to keep the bottom feeders healthy and working. That’s what will feed the whole economy and the rich will get richer. I know the majority of you commenting are very worried about that. I don’t think anyone is keeping an eye on the canary in the cage though.

    • mark from

      Jeanette Ask yourself if you ever got a job from a poor person

      • Countrythoughts


        How many jobs in the state are provided by owners that make under $175000, Last I heard, most jobs in Minnesota are small businesses. and not the mega employee corporations. If a person makes 30000 a year should he pay the same % for food, shelter and transportation as someone that makes 3000000 a year? I believe the higher income person has more desposible income.

  • mike

    If you want to understand the data, go to the source. Anyone can get a copy of the report: 2011 Minnesota Tax incident sturdy. Quoting directily from the report, P 40. And try to understand the difference between Tax Burden which is more than just income.

  • Reasonable

    Man, I wish I would have been around during this post…

    Hopefully someone can do some 6th grade math to come to the obvious conclusion that the income disparity will lean heavily towards the top earners. Think the top 5% paying 40% of taxes is wrong? Try the top 5% paying closer to 80% under a flat tax since the ratio of actual dollars will be about 6:1 instead of 3.5:1.

    The notion that the wealthy use less state services is fundamentally absurd. You live out in the suburbs where assumed police and fire coverage give you a higher amount of peace and quiet. Suburban streets are plowed before city streets get plowed as it is easier to get to everything. Your children go to better schools with teachers that are paid more, cafeterias in those schools serve better food, equipment/technology in those schools is VASTLY superior to those in the lower income areas. Don’t believe me? Offer your kid to that school and see how the education goes. Don’t want to take the chance? Yeah, I don’t blame you.

    Do you take the bus to work? Didn’t think so. Govt services pay for the roads that you take to travel. Too many potholes? Hey, you’re paying enough in gas taxes, but the MNDoT crews aren’t paid with gas tax money, just the equipment.

    Do you vacation in the great lakes area up north? Make sure to not thank the DNR for preserving wet and wild lands, also for keeping you alive from bear attacks and whatnot.

    We all get services from the govt both big and small, despite the assertion that we’re not because “they’re on the dole”. Well, when you no longer have an income due to retirement, hopefully you’ll be giving back your medical assistance and social security money because it’s just not right!

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live